Buying your first home, a voyage of discovery
March 04, 2021
You may have heard that Calgary’s residential market is red hot right now. Strong sales have taken many new home builders by surprise (albeit, a pleasant one) and some have even been struggling to keep inventory.
Prevailing circumstances may just make it ideal for anyone thinking of buying their first home to make the jump. Mortgage rates are still extremely low, there are tons of choices available especially for new homes. And if circumstances are forcing you to shelter in place for extended periods of time, wouldn’t you want to be in a place of your own and that you love?
There’s no shortage of new home options to choose from, and a ton of new communities are opening up with fantastic deals for the right buyer. The federal government also provides some assistance through the First Time Home Buyer Program from the National Housing Strategy that helps eligible first-time homebuyers purchase their first home.
But stepping into such a big life-changing commitment, it’s normal to have doubts. That’s why a lot of homebuilders offer further assurances that can help new home buyers make the decision. We talk to a couple who just bought their first home about their experience, and to Excel Homes and Trico Homes, two local builders who specialize in the first-time buyer market, for some expert advice.
Making the leap
First time home buyers, Ceazar Simon and Coleen Cruz, knew they wanted to own their own home and have been searching since 2019. With the help of a realtor, they found one in the new community of Wolf Willow in the southeast.
“We really didn’t know what we wanted, or where. We just knew it had to be a single-family home that we could afford,” Ceazar tells Calgary New Home + Condo Guide. “Our realtor took us to Wolf Willow and we learned about the Raeya from Trico Homes and we fell in love with it right away.”
The 1,802-square-foot Raeya laned home from Trico Homes checked all the boxes for Ceazar and Coleen. It has three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, plenty of room for just the two of them and their dog. “It’s a home we can grow into,” Ceazar says.
“We didn’t have a clue about Wolf Willow, and we were just so surprised that it’s close to the river, near the golf course and lots of commercial amenities just around the corner. We’re so glad to have found this,” he adds.
Shawna Christensen, Trico Homes Area Sales Manager in Wolf Willow says the vast majority of their homebuyers are first timers. “Confidently, I would say 80 per cent of our buyers here are first timers.”
Making it easy
Trico Homes Marketing Manager, Glenda Schwartz says there are several advantages in buying your own home. “As opposed to buying a resale, you won’t have to worry about doing any renovations, updates or unexpected repairs. Buyers also get a stronger emotional connection when building a home to call your own.”
Her Excel Homes counterpart, Kristina Plank, says the starter home is the first step to the buyer’s independence. “It’s most likely one of the largest purchases an individual has made at this point in their lives, and we want to ensure that the home includes everything they could need and more!”
Both agree that buying a home – in general – can feel very daunting and both builders have instituted programs that will guide the buyer step-by-step through the process.
Trico Homes generally considers townhomes, duplex and laned homes as starter homes. “Trico’s starter homes are priced affordably so that first-time buyers can transition comfortably from renting to owning by keeping mortgage payments manageable,” Schwartz says.
For Excel, it’s their single-family homes that gets majority of their first-time homebuyer business. “Our most popular (starter) product types are duplex, laned and front-drive garage homes,” Plank says. “Buyers who are coming from an apartment or condo will, especially, appreciate the detached living aspects of this product type, as these detached homes off a sanctuary for new homeowners, a space that is 100 per cent their own. They are usually surprised at how much we can offer even on a smaller budget.”
While Schwartz says pride of ownership and enjoying a fuller lifestyle are what appeals most to buyers. “Many of our first-time buyers enjoy an active lifestyle and want to devote their time doing things they enjoy most. Starter homes are a great fit because the smaller size makes the upkeep easier (for example, less lawn to mow), and you can still get everything you want without having to pay for extra living space and furniture or have higher utility costs and property taxes.”
First-time homebuyers would do well to take note of Trico’s Hallmark Homes Collection, featuring six of its signature single-family homes: the Rowan II, the Raeya, the Oxford, the Concord, the Winston and the Stanley. “The Rowan II, Raeya and Oxford are popular favorites among our first-time buyers,” Schwartz says.
“These homes are priced exceptionally well; the Rowan II and Raeya start from the high $300,000s and the Oxford from the mid $400,000s. They also come with Trico’s most popular features and specifications which you won’t have to pay extra to get,” Schwartz says.
For Excel Homes, the 2,235 square-foot, front-drive Collingwood is the best-selling model. “In 2020 we sold a record breaking number of Collingwood homes to families looking to start their journey to new homeownership,” Plank says. “The Collingwood is one of our most flexible front-drive garage plans, offering buyers the ability to personalize their new home with several upgrades including a bedroom on the main floor, the addition of a spice kitchen, and the ability to add a side entry to the basement.”
She further points out that Excel new homeowners are eligible for the Built Green rebates on their new homes (https://www.builtgreencanada.ca/mortgage-rebate-calculator).
Both Trico Homes and Excel Homes believe that there is no time like the present to jump in the homeowning bandwagon.
“Some of our communities are in high demand or nearing completion, so this is the last chance that you can buy a new home there before it’s fully sold out. This includes Unity in Seton where we’re down to our last few townhomes, or Redstone with just four duplex homes remaining,” Schwartz says.
Plank says, depending on what the buyer needs, they have the home and the location that fits.
“Different buyers have different needs, some put price above all else and others have a specific community/area of the city they would preferer to live in. Excel Homes is fortunate enough to be able to offer our customers a variety of homes across Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding areas,” she says.
All of our communities have unique selling features that will attract different buyers! There is no one community that is superior to the rest, but our newest communities include Homestead in northeast Calgary.
About Pepper Rodriguez
Pepper Rodriguez is a writer, editor of New Home + Condo Guide's Calgary and Edmonton editions.